Pro-Gun Lawmakers Introduce Anti-Red Flag Laws to Defend Rights

Thursday, January 2, 2020
By Paul Martin

by Luis Miguel
Wednesday, 01 January 2020

Republicans in Kansas and Oklahoma are proposing measures to prevent the federal government or other states from using red flag laws to take away firearms from their residents.

Neither state currently has red flag laws, which allow the government to confiscate the guns of individuals whom courts have deemed a possible danger to themselves and others.

But their majority-Republican legislatures are looking to preempt the enacting of such laws, including by cities and counties. Measures being considered by pro-gun lawmakers would even make it a felony for someone to help enforce a firearm confiscation order.

Sponsors of the bills said they were motivated by the possibility of Congress either passing red flag laws outright or offering grants enticing states to pass such laws on their own.

While supporters of red flag laws claim they reduce suicides, gun violence, and mass shootings, opponents argue they violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms, along with other constitutionally-protected guarantees, such as the right to due process, to confront an accuser, and against unreasonable search and seizure.

“There’s numerous violations of the Bill of Rights taking place by these red flags laws,” said Tulsa-area Republican State Senator Nathan Dahm, who is sponsoring an anti-red flag law measure in Oklahoma.

Currently, seventeen states and the District of Columbia have red flag laws in place in some form. Dahm filed his proposal in September of 2019. Separate but identical measures were introduced in the Kansas state House and Senate in December.

All three measures declare null and void any gun removal order from the federal government or another state and establish that no state or local agency may accept federal grants that require the enforcement of such orders.

Kansas’ attorney general, Derek Schmidt, is a Republican gun-rights supporter, but has not yet taken a position on the proposal.

“States generally do not have the ability to tell the federal government, ‘Get out of our state and stop enforcing your laws,” Schmidt said. “But states do generally have the ability to tell the federal government, ‘You are not able to commandeer state resources and compel us to enforce your laws.’”

Democratic Kansas State Representative Stephanie Clayton called the proposals “disturbing” and characterized Second Amendment supporters as becoming increasingly extreme. She wondered whether the proposals are a “publicity stunt.”

Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, a Washington-based nonprofit, advocates for red flag laws by equating them to anti-domestic violence legislation. The latter allow abuse victims to get temporary court orders preventing abusers from getting near them until a judge can review their cases.

Christian Heyne, Brady’s vice president of policy, said individuals usually must present “an acute risk” to themselves or others to qualify for removal of their firearms. Such laws only target those “at the highest risk” of suicide and violent behavior, Heyne added.

“Firearms can do damage that knives cannot do,” said Jonathan Lowry, Brady’s chief legal counsel. “Suicide is another area where the science is clear, that suicide attempts with firearms are much more successful than other means.”

But Dahm and other critics of red flag laws argue that they are open to abuse.

Kansas State Senator Richard Hilderbrand, a southeast Kansas Republican sponsoring one of his state’s anti-red flag law measures, said they do not address the root issue of mass shootings.

“The gun isn’t what caused that mass shooting. That was the instrument that was used,” he stated. “The hate in that person’s heart is what caused it, so until we start addressing that, you know, we’re just going down these rabbit holes that lead to nowhere.”

During Sunday morning services at West Freeway Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Texas, a gunman who opened fire on the congregation was quickly stopped by an armed parishioner, 71-year-old Jack Wilson—a former reserve deputy sheriff who owns his own range and provides firearms training to members of the church.

Though two members of the congregation were killed before the shotgun-wielding suspect was taken down, Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton said that many more would have died had Wilson not been armed and prepared.

“This church responded in seconds and it saved lives of potentially over 200 people,” said Paxton. “They are the model for what other churches and places of business should focus on.”

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